It seems impossible for a University to punish, as a Government can, one of its students. We certainly cannot sentence anyone to servitude or jail; all we can really do is send him away. There is a sense in which we can 'fine' a student a thousand dollars, but we cannot get a court order requiring him to pay it. We can only say, "Unless you pay, we will discontinue your enrollment." We cannot, as the law can, forbid a student's drinking whiskey; we can only say that if he does drink we will expel him. So it is with every other sort of inconvenience we may think to apply to him: He may, if he does not value his enrollment with us, simply walk away.
But since most students do value their enrollments, they will not usually walk away. More than their enrollments --- they have records, transcripts, and as the semesters roll on, a financial investment in the degree that lies ahead. Expelling a student is clearly a deprivation of something, perhaps even "liberty" or "property" as contemplated in the 14th Amendment, according to the Federal courts. The mere announcement of guilt can be construed as such a deprivation, even if it is not made public. The fact that the courts have held State Universities to account under the 14th Amendment proves that we do indeed have the power to punish. (cf. Jaska v Regents of the University of Michigan, 1984, for example. That Jaska lost his case does not affect the principle, which Judge Feikens enunciated explicitly.)
But how shall we punish? The pillory and the rockpile are out of bounds and expulsion is extreme; there is understandably a recurrent debate over what should be the punishments for misbehavior. Hardly anything seems available except expulsion, suspension, or the threat thereof, which is usually called "probation." In cases of academic dishonesty these are the only punishments actually used at some Universities, especially those with formalized honor codes. Princeton, Virginia, Annapolis, and Washington and Lee, for example, explicitly list them as the only possibilities [see Melendez, pp 56-60].
Washington and Lee's The Honor System (1984-85) states in explanation of its all-or-nothing attitude, "No violation of this trust is too small to be ignored, for we understand that honor is not measured by degree." [quoted in Melendez, op.cit.] There are signs however (according to information I have from personal correspondence) that Princeton is dissatisfied with so limited a spectrum, for all that honor is an indivisible.
Within the threat of expulsion there are a good number of things a college can do, once it is reconciled to the notion that a student proved dishonorable may yet be redeemed. They all require the cooperation of the student, as mentioned above, but compliance will usually be more attractive to him than the expulsion whose threat lurks behind. Some of the penalties to be discussed also require the cooperation of the faculty, or a certain amount of supervisory labor on the part of Deans and the like; these are a bit harder to apply. Let us take up, one by one, some of the disciplinary measures I have had experience with, or have advocated without success, in the honesty court in which I have served.
Failure in Course and Lowering of Grades
The most common is failure in the course, or a lowering of grade. According to [Bowers, 1964], about one-third of all colleges surveyed dealt with academic dishonesty by routinely leaving each case in the hands of a single professor, presumably the professor in whose course the dishonesty was discovered. Since the only punishment open to that level of authority is failure in the course, or a lowered grade (or admonition, one supposes), at least one-third of all punishments are therefore necessarily either failure or grade-lowering. Add to this one-third the similar penalties applied, as they often are, in colleges where other options are also available, and it is clear that a grading penalty must be, nationally, the most usual. Of course, even in colleges which have no mechanism other than action by an individual professor explicitly reserved for academic dishonesty cases, an aggravated offense or a particularly aggrieved professor may suffice to bring the case to the attention of the Dean or whatever more general disciplinary mechanism the school employs, so that suspension or expulsion is still possible; but cases handled by a professor alone can only by punished by failure or a lowered grade, since this is all that is in the professor's power.
In some colleges the professor who does punish a student in this manner is permitted (or even required) to notify a Dean or Department Chairman, or Registrar, of the action taken, so that some mark, usually temporary, is entered on the record. There are other variants. At the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester a professor is required to confer informally with the Chairman of his Department before penalizing a student, and the professor's authority to apply his own penalty is permitted only in a minor offense and where the student agrees not to contest it; in case of protest, or if it turns out to be a second offense (according to the Chairman's files, or perhaps the Dean's), the case must go to a court established for the purpose.
This is a common pattern, where lower grades, typically resulting from the statutorily prescribed penalty "Zero for the assignment," are considered standard for small first offenses. And it is not only in small, private colleges like the Eastman School that a lower grade by professorial action is the first, and usually only, step; the same is true of the Geneseo campus of the State University of New York, which is a large, public University. The Geneseo catalogue says:
If the student admits the act of dishonesty, the penalty will be an "E" on that assignment/test, a final grade of "E" for the course, or other appropriate penalty, as determined by the faculty member...the faculty member may require the student to complete additional work in order to continue in the course...If the faculty member believes that the dishonesty is severe enough to warrant suspension or dismissal from the college, he or she should refer the case to the College Discipline Committee.
At both Eastman and Geneseo the regulations provide for counseling too. It is contemplated that students committing relatively minor offenses, plagiarism on part of a minor assignment, say, or unpremeditated copying from a neighbor's paper on an examination, stand more in need of instruction than pain. The counseling prescribed is generally only a lecture from the professor or a salutary assignment, either an admonition or some instruction in the nature of plagiarism and how to avoid it.
At Princeton, and at the College of Literature, Science and the Arts of the University of Michigan (at Ann Arbor), on the other hand, lowering of grade (or failure in the course) is absolutely no part of the penal formulary. Princeton has an Honor Code governing examinations; it is understandable that dishonor should not be equated to thus and so many correct answers. Plagiarism, while it technically does not come under Princeton's Honor Code, and is therefore judged by a different judiciary, is still a violation of a pledge signed on the front of the document, and so is hardly to be distinguished from Honor Code violations. But why should Michigan eschew this most common form of academic penalty for an academic sin?
The Michigan code contains the following words (in the Revision dated March, 1984):
Penalties assigned by the Judiciary may include but are not limited to:
* Disciplinary probation, with a notation placed on the transcript (At the end of the probationary period the student must file a petition with the Academic Judiciary to have the notation expunged from the permanent record);
* Imposition of extra hours of credit required for graduation;
* Suspension from the University for a period of time;
* Permanent expulsion from the College;
* Recommendation to the President for permanent expulsion from the University.
The control of the course grade rests with the instructor (The assigning of a grade of "F" to a paper which has been plagiarized does not constitute punitive grading). In instances in which it is found that the faculty complainant has levied some penalty in addition to that prescribed by the Judiciary, the Judiciary reserves the right to rescind or modify its original penalty.
The Michigan code thus vigorously discourages the use of grades for punishment. It acknowledges that a plagiarized paper may well be worth a grade of "F," since such a paper manifestly does not answer the professor's assignment, but this "F" is not to be construed as a punishment any more than would be an "F" for some other academic non-performance. Grades, in the Michigan view, are simply measures of performance; poor grades are no more punishments than good grades are prizes. The code does not allow the Judiciary to interfere with the professor's grading judgments. Furthermore, it discourages even the professor's using a lowered grade punitively, by specifying that professors who insist on doing so may find the Judiciary's punishments modified in compensation.
There is much to be said for this point of view. There was one case at the University of Rochester where the court on which I sat contemplated failing a student in an engineering course in which he had abetted the fraudulent performance of a friend and classmate by letting him copy part of a take-home final examination. (Failure and grade-lowering are permitted under our code.) It was fortunately noticed by one of us that the course in question was a required course for the student's degree program, and in particular a prerequisite for another required course. By assigning him a failing grade we would be condemning him to repeat a course he quite well knew and understood, to no good educational purpose; and even if in taking it again he would need to spend but little time studying, he would still have had to wait the semester out before taking the following course. Alternatively, he could ask permission to take the second course without the stated prerequisite (it having been listed on his record as failed), but then he would have had to explain the circumstances, something our constitution does not wish us to force on our culprits; we keep our cases confidential. We ended by prescribing an extra course for graduation, while the other student, the one who had partly copied the take-home examination, was given a failure in the course.
This incident does not fully illustrate the reason for not using grade-lowering, which lies somewhat deeper. If a catalogue of all such situations could be made and the difficulties somehow avoided, as we avoided a certain difficulty concerning "prerequisites" in the decision we finally rendered, it would answer all objections. But no such catalogue is possible. Any falsification of the record may have unforeseen evil consequences. By "failing" a student in a course he has in fact passed, we --- the University --- are lying about what he has accomplished. We assert that he doesn't know much about the material of Math 113 when actually he does, but has been dishonest in some unrelated aspect of his behavior there. The world at large, one member of which may be the professor in a course to which Math 113 is prerequisite, is being deceived by our action. The deception of that professor might perhaps somehow be got around, but he is only a small part of the world to which we have made the false announcement; the "E" we assign might be only the beginning of a chain of evils we did not intend, cannot foresee, and cannot terminate.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive!
I have therefore always been ambivalent about failure and grade-lowering as punishments. But why ambivalent? Why should I not condemn them out of hand, as Princeton and Michigan do?
Actually I once did. The Report (Raimi, 1965) of the committee that established the present honesty system at the University of Rochester was careful to recommend that a student's transcript should carry no mention of academic dishonesty decisions (if any), and gave two reasons. First, as may well be imagined, because the transcript would otherwise become a lifelong pillory, beyond the deserts of most students who are convicted of some offense. Second, more subtly, because the mention might tend to put into doubt the validity of what the transcript represents in terms of academic accomplishment. If that validity is seriously compromised by what is learned by the court, that student should simply be expelled. In most cases it is not.
So too with grade-lowering. We wanted the transcript to be honest, and we considered it as much a falsification to place a grade of "E" where a "B" had been honestly earned (the dishonesty having taken place along another front) as it would be to place a mention of dishonesty on a transcript whose announcements of grades were in fact being certified by the University as honestly obtained.
But that was before I had had any actual experience conducting trials of students accused of academic fraud, before I had to grapple with the problem of finding a penalty appropriate to each offense. Before ruling out grade-lowering, we must consider what other penalties are available, and what the actual effect of grade-lowering is. How much does it corrupt the record? Let us think on the public weal as a whole, and how our proceedings improve or degrade it.
To cite an analogy, a legal theoretician with no experience of criminals, courts, and jails might well be horrified at the notion of plea-bargaining. A compromise between justice and injustice, a compromise between truth and falsehood, can only be called injustice, or falsehood. But as we all know, plea-bargaining has its reasons in a world where the process of justice is so expensive or time-consuming that the pursuit of its perfection becomes a greater injustice than compromise. Lowering of grade, as will be seen, will under some circumstances effect a similarly rough justice where nothing else would do as well.
Extra Courses for Graduation
Another penalty, mentioned in the Michigan code, for example, is the assignment of extra credits for graduation. This is something not many professors would wish to acknowledge as a form of punishment. If a four-hour course is a punishment, what shall we call a whole college education? But that's a joke. Much as professors would like to have students join them in thinking of study as a joy, they certainly understand that extra work (whatever its nature) is a burden; after all, do not professors calculate a thing they call their "teaching load," the while professing pleasure in their work?
When we at Rochester have assigned extra academic work, it has always been with an educational purpose related to the offense for which it was imposed. An exemplary case was that of a music student who was taking an elective history course, far from his main interests. A term paper was required. He plagiarized the paper, and admitted it when confronted. At the hearing it became clear that he had been ill-prepared to have taken the course at all, and that in particular he had little training in writing, and probably little aptitude. He was in over his head, and at the end took the cheap way out, not even realizing how obvious the difference in style was between the professional work he copied and what even a good student could have been expected to submit on his own.
He had failed the course fair and square. He hadn't done well before the term paper, and of course the plagiarism was worth an E whether or not our court convicted him of fraud. Therefore we could not fail him as punishment. He was young and ignorant, and had been frightened by his inability to cope with that course, which he had elected because it dealt with his own ancestral ethnicity, and he knew it would please his parents if he learned something in that direction. This was not a student we could suspend or expel; what was left? We could not even reasonably ask him to repeat this particular course. The following is quoted from our letter to the Dean, that constitutes our decision. (Our constitution requires the Dean to administer punishments, on our advice, which is normally accepted verbatim. It should also be noted that students before us have their grades in abeyance, marked "N" for the time being.)
...At today's hearing we enquired more particularly into Mr. A's circumstances, in order to arrive at a recommendation of penalty... First, the formal recommendations are (1) that Professor P be notified that the Board on Academic Honesty has found Mr. A guilty of plagiarism and that he should change Mr. A's grade from its present 'N' to an 'E', i.e. failure in the entire course, and (2) that as a condition for receiving a degree from the University of Rochester, Mr. A be required to elect and pass some course in the humanities, either on the River Campus or at the Eastman School. This course should require some written papers of the sort that Mr. A was unable to negotiate this last time around.
The "extra" course is not intended to be an additional burden on Mr. A in terms of credit hours needed to graduate; it is to replace some other elective he might otherwise have put in that place. And we would like him to do this despite the fact that (as Mr. A told us) he has already completed all the 'humanities' requirements the Eastman School of Music would require of him in the normal course of events...
Mr. A worried us. He appears depressed and fearful. He explained to us... We wish to take him at his word, and let him begin again in at least one exercise in this direction; but we did not wish to make him do it for Professor P. He does need some guidance. We would not want to have the prescribed extra course sprung on him anonymously, as it were. He has been adrift long enough. We found him sympathetic, and we would want someone to lead him sympathetically through this exercise. We believe a successful completion of this course, with some extra help in his writing, would improve his morale measurably. But he may also have troubles we know nothing of....
Strictly speaking, we did not impose extra credits for graduation in this case, though it may have come to that, but the example is apt enough to illustrate how an extra course can be both punitive and educational. And in this particular case, we hoped, more than that. The part about failure in the course illustrates one circumstance in which there is a good answer to those who think failure or grade-lowering as a penalty for dishonesty is a corruption of the academic record:
There was in this verdict a slight compromise with the truth. The truth was that this student already had failed the course by not performing the assigned work, quite apart from the question of dishonesty. But it had not been announced to him by his professor, because our protocol requires the "holding" grade of N in cases where the end of the term comes before an honesty case is adjudicated. The ceremony of having the Dean announce the failure as part of his punishment, we believed, solemnized his offense, much as did the ceremony of having his case come before a formal session of the Board on Academic Honesty. He had confessed his fault in writing; did we need a hearing too? He had failed the course through egregious non-performance; his professor was competent to decide this; did the Dean have to decree that failure? The answer is -- yes.
The chances are that he would have failed the course even if he had honestly written the best paper he was capable of, but we think it healthy to have a method of distinguishing the two sorts of "E" grades, something the bare transcript does not do. Ceremony as an educational device, and as a teacher of morality, should not be underestimated. It is here that we find the most typical use of grade-lowering as a disciplinary device that does not in fact corrupt the student's transcript: The failing grade was deserved on academic grounds, hence vacuous as a penalty applied by the Board, yet combined with ceremony it added gravity to the verdict, and would have done so even in the absence of other penalty.
A judge in a T-shirt can sentence a man to prison, but we believe he should not; robes serve a purpose, and in Britain they have gray wigs as well. Ceremony itself should be an entry in our catalogue of penalties, though it is hard to write this into the constitution except by implication. In the Geneseo system, where for small offenses the professor administers the penalty (which can only be grade-lowering or an extra assignment, and presumably not the latter if the grade is to be failure), the incident is too easily dismissed by the student as unimportant. At Rochester, where the professor is constrained to report any suspected dishonesty by letter to the Chairman of the Board on Academic Honesty, a procedure is set in motion which rivals in gravity a procedure for expulsion, even if the end result is the same grade-lowering that this student would have sustained at Geneseo.
The present Constitution of the system in force when I last served as Chairman is printed in Appendix 1, but I shall partially repeat it in here describing what rituals are observed by a typical student caught cheating, and found guilty. He is first confronted by his professor, who describes his observations and invites the student to confess or to explain the misunderstanding. Since (under our assumption of guilt in this case) there can be no such explanation to satisfy the professor that it was all a misunderstanding, the latter informs the student that it is his duty to report the incident to the Chairman of the Board on Academic Honesty, who will communicate with the student directly. A few days later the student receives a letter from that Chairman, asking for his view of the case, in writing, by a certain date. This letter contains as enclosures copies of relevant University statutes concerning academic dishonesty. (The student has seen all these before, but usually during Freshman Orientation; our typical student has usually forgotten them.)
Once the student has answered, he is notified by letter of the date and time of his hearing, if there is to be one, as is usually the case. At the hearing, in a conference room connected with the Dean's office, a place he would never otherwise see, he confronts three professors who question him and, when done, inform him that if found guilty he will hear from the Dean (not the Board) what his penalty is to be. And in a week or so he does, by a letter written and signed by the Dean.
At the hearing itself there may be witnesses and counselors, but the professor who discovered his cheating is not the prosecutor and is usually not even present, unless the student wishes to call for him. The whole affair is removed to a plane far from the classroom and the routines of daily life. By these symbols of authority and ceremony we remove it to a moral plane, and we want it to remain so in his memory, for all that we are no longer gentlemen of 19th Century England. Any system of dealing with academic dishonesty that fails to make use of the symbols of authority is omitting the most impressive force at its disposition.
Schools that have "honor codes" are apparently making maximal use of the punishment of ceremony, giving the symbols of authority a quasi-religious flavor. Considering the fact that their proceedings also eventuate in suspension or worse more often than those of other schools, there is a danger that professors (and other students) will become reluctant to expose an errant student to all that, and will therefore act surreptitiously to avoid reporting all but the worst cases that come to their attention. It is said that a child could be hanged in 18th Century England for stealing a loaf of bread. One suspects that most bakers therefore boxed the hungry child's ears rather than call for the hangman. This does not conduce to respect for the law as written.
Over the four-year period ending in 1988 at Princeton there were 52 "guilty" verdicts in cases of cheating or other academic fraud, and in 21 of these cases the punishment was a suspension, withheld degree, or involuntary withdrawals (no expulsions, however). Eleven of these cases came under the Honor Code (cheating in unsupervised examinations), and all eleven carried a penalty that severe; in the other 41 cases, heard before the more general disciplinary committee, the heavy penalties were applied to only 10, the other guilty students being put on probation or warning.
At the University of Rochester, whose undergraduate population is comparable to Princeton's, but which has no formal honor code, and which suspends or expels a student only rarely, there were, over the four year period ending in 1988, 89 verdicts of guilty, with five suspensions (mainly of duration a semester or less). More reports come to us, I believe, because lighter penalties are in prospect; I know from talking to professors that some cases would not have come to us if the professor thought the student might receive a heavy penalty. My personal assurance that ceremony was salutary in such cases was often the deciding factor.
On the other hand, there are professors at Rochester who are contemptuous of our Board's proceedings because we only deliver "a slap on the hand," instead of the expulsion they think merited. They may be right, though I disagree, but it would be in any case quite inconsistent for such a professor to fail to report a case on such grounds.
The problem is mostly in the other direction, however. Compared with the number who want expulsion or suspension to follow an act of dishonesty, there are many more who would rather keep the matter within the classroom, and not make use of any formal procedure. And finally there are those who take the attitude of "See no evil." (See Chapter 8: Why Bother?)
Assignment of an Essay
Apart from assigning an extra course for graduation, there are other academic assignments that could serve both a punitive and an educational purpose. There are, as has been seen, many borderline cases of plagiarism, especially among papers of first year students, where ignorance is sometimes hardly to be distinguished from dishonesty. "Paper" here should be construed to include lab reports, computer programs, and so on, all of which are subject to minor dishonesties. The plagiarized paper as submitted is worthless, so that assigning a failure for the paper does not, apart from the solemnity of the proceedings, constitute a penalty. And yet, we would rather teach this student how such a paper should be done than fail him in the course. There is no reason why the Dean (or whoever administers the penalty) should not ask for a rewritten assignment, or even an extra paper of the same nature, to be drawn up with considerable care, including an explanation of the difference between the way this one was done and the way the original, culpable, one had been done. The result should be submitted to some panel willing to judge whether it demonstrates the learning of the desired lesson. In the following example, drawn from Rochester experience, that panel was the professor in the course; I quote from the Board's decision:
Dear Dean K:
The Board on Academic Honesty met yesterday and heard from Mr. A, who was cited for plagiarism in paper submitted to Professor P in Biology 905 last Term. We found Mr. A guilty of plagiarism in that he lifted several paragraphs verbatim from one of his sources, but it was a source duly cited at the end of his paper, and the evidence of Mr. A's intent to deceive his professor was less than clear. The paper was supposed to be "informal," i.e. without detailed citation and footnotes, though based on journal literature -- to us a confusing assignment. Mr. A must have known he had overstepped the mark, but the crime was not as blatant as most of those we see.
Our recommendation is that Professor P be instructed to award him an E for the paper, and grade him for the course accordingly. If the resulting grade is a passing grade, it should not be awarded until Mr. A has submitted a completely rewritten paper replacing the one in question, a paper worthy of a passing grade and one that commits no plagiarism, though it may make use of the same materials. However, the submission of this rewritten paper is not to affect the course grade, or modify the E already received for the original assignment; it is only an extra condition for a passing grade in the course.
We urge Mr. A to consult Professor P in advance of doing this, to learn more certainly the proper rules of scholarly behavior, and we understand that Professor P is willing to undertake the extra effort involved. He should be thanked for his cooperation...
This particular verdict had more than one purpose, the other one being diplomatic. It is not easy to tell a professor that he has given a bad assignment, or that his student, while guilty in every detail of what the professor has alleged against him, is still not guilty of anything very serious. Professor P (who was a fairly young professor) thought it serious enough to submit to the Board, and we did not wish to discourage his vigilance. One of the most serious problems faced by every academic honesty régime is the reluctance of professors to report questionable occurrences. The Rochester system attempts to overcome this in part by relieving the reporting professor of the burden of prosecution; it wouldn't do to castigate him when he dutifully reports a case that we think really should not have arisen. This happens more with inexperienced professors than with older ones, as a result of a poorly drawn assignment or a badly proctored examination room. The student is guilty, to be sure, or we would find him not guilty, but the professor must be taught how to avoid the occasion for such guilty behavior, if possible.
In the case just cited the Board never found out how well Mr. A fulfilled the assigned task, or how much labor it cost Professor P to complete the penalty, but there were three separate occasions during my term when we asked the guilty student to write a short essay (about 1000 words) for us to read, explaining why the University cannot tolerate cheating or plagiarism among its students. I cannot say that the results were particularly encouraging in any dimension; let me describe one such case.
Professor Q, of philosophy, reported that three nearly identical papers had been submitted to him in an elementary course. I sent the three students the usual letter of enquiry, and received the following answer (verbatim and [sic]) from one of the students named, whom I call Mr. A:
Dear Mr. Ralph A. Raimi,
I am responded to your letter about the mix-up with papers from Professor Q's class. I will explain what happenned to you.
I received some help with an English paper from someone in my Philosophy class. The theme of my English paper was very similar to the theme of the Philosophy paper. In order for me to write my Philosophy paper, I used my English paper as a guide. I then assisted someone else in writing the Philosophy paper.
I hope you understand that these are all the facts of the story.
I could make very little out of this, even combined with the answers from the other two students, until the day of the hearing. It turned out that Mr. A was acquainted with two other students in that philosophy class, B and C, and had copied (without B's knowing it) much of B's paper for use in an English class. He then later turned in a version of that (plagiarized) English paper for a philosophy assignment, and furthermore, now being an expert on the subject, gave his (second) version of the plagiarism to C, who also turned it in to the same philosophy professor.
So A was guilty of plagiarism both in philosophy and in an English class whose professor was entirely unaware. It is sometimes hard to imagine what goes on in the mind of one such as A: to turn in a paper practically identical with one he knew the same professor had received from another member (B) of that class, and then give it to a third student (C) to copy, again for the same professor. Yet such a mind set is not uncommon among students, especially freshmen, who appear before the honesty courts. They look on the University as some enormous machine in which, since they are lost, everything else must be equally anonymous; they hardly imagine that their papers are really being read, by a real human being with an eye and a memory. Our verdict (addressed to the Dean) involved admonitions, the lowering of Mr. A's grade in both the English and philosophy courses, and the following:
...That Mr. A be instructed to submit an essay of at least 1000 words explaining why the University of Rochester cannot tolerate plagiarism in student papers, whether the plagiarism be from published sources or from friendly fellow students. (This essay can draw on previous results, suitably acknowledged, but must be from his own pen, once he has begun writing.)
Our verdict called attention the fact that Mr. A "appears to be more than usually illiterate, even for a freshman...", and this estimate was borne out in the sequel. The Dean did in fact ask Mr. A to produce the essay we asked for, and sent it to me when it came in, asking the Board on Academic Honesty to declare whether it answered our purpose. I read it and circulated it among the members of the Board, and then wrote the Dean as follows:
I must return to you this paper by Mr. A as unacceptable to the Board on Academic Honesty. Two of us initially thought to accept it with a shrug of resignation, but the two others were quite firm. Meerbote wrote "Ungrammatical and quite incoherent," and Kinnen wrote that we cannot condone this level of writing, and that so unorganized a collection of ideas and meaningless sentences is probably the work of half an hour.
At the least, Kinnen says, Mr. A should
1. Prepare an outline, to be submitted with the paper;
2. Rewrite the paper, using the outline; and
3. Guarantee no spelling errors.
Our recommended requirement was that he defend the thesis that the University cannot tolerate cheating or plagiarism in its students' work. I myself think that he has included several of the essential points in what he has submitted, and that the same collection of ideas, if amplified and written in something more like English, would serve. The opening, about plagiarism and the law, is unnecessary and should be omitted to make room for his own arguments; the rest should be outlined and re-done.
He should consult his friends when he has done what he considers a complete job, to see if they can spot any grammatical or orthographic faults, and then write his final version in the light of those criticisms. Perhaps one of his professors would serve as editor, if he will not use his friends. If the help he gets is substantial, he should acknowledge it, but he should not be afraid to get it. And if it takes him all summer, maybe that will do him good.
Well, it took longer than that. By September (1987) there was no further response, and I sent A a letter in October asking about it. On February 16 (1988) I wrote the Dean a letter recapitulating the situation and asking him to consider the case one of ordinary student discipline at that point, rather than an academic honesty case. He wrote a warning of his own, which got no reply by the end of the term in April, and so the Dean placed a notation in the academic file of Mr. A saying that he would not be permitted to register for the following semester coming up (September, 1988). I have since discovered by accident, since I left the Board during the summer of 1988, that this student did somehow get permission to register and is still a student; whether this was in consequence of having finally produced the essay I cannot say.
Looking back over the past year and a half, it seems to me that we should have failed Mr. A outright in the two classes (English and Philosophy) in which he had cheated. Failure would not, I am now persuaded, have been a falsification of the record. In fact, he may have received a failing grade in one or both of those courses anyway; our honesty court does not follow up on these things. We might even have suspended him from school for a period of time during which he could have thought things over. There is no doubt that college has been doing him no good at all, and it is puzzling that he managed to remain here this past year without flunking out. Yet I do not believe the penalty we assessed was entirely futile.
One thing the case does exhibit clearly is how little some professors expect of their students. Mr. A's English teacher was unaware that the paper A had submitted had been copied from another course, not to mention from another student; why? Because the English assignment the paper "answered" had been so vague that almost anything would do (quite apart from the quality of what was turned in), including the paper (which happened to be about the ethics of abortion) originally prepared for philosophy. The assignment we, the Board on Academic Honesty, gave Mr. A was specific: to argue that plagiarism is intolerable. We only asked for a thousand words, but the thousand were not to be found in a fraternity file, or borrowed from a friend. Mr. A's inability to solve this one could have ended (and may end yet, for all I know) by driving him out of school, while the assignments of his regular courses somehow did not exhibit his deficiencies to his instructors. The whole affair exhibits some want of attention in at least one of his instructors, if not an unpardonable laxity in the grading practices of several others. Professors who serve on the Board on Academic Honesty learn a good deal about the teaching practices of their colleagues, and lessons for themselves --- another reason for a college to cherish the formality of a court, rather than informal, professor-applied, discipline.
It should be mentioned that in the three other cases known to me where the Rochester court asked for an essay on academic dishonesty, we got papers that ranged from marginal to good. Each of them was without doubt the work of the student who turned it in, and we believe that in every case the student learned something from the exercise, not only about dishonesty but about writing.
Another kind of penalty, that can only be applied at an administrative level higher than classroom, is public service. We have applied it only three times in the last seventy-two verdicts of guilty (a three-year budget), always when we had some reason to consider the student's behavior antisocial in a way that somehow called for it, and where a failure in the course was (apart from the stigma) meaningless, because he was already failing. To give some of the flavor of the kind of case we considered amenable to this treatment I will quote from a verdict that is very long because it details the events of the hearing, in which the student denied his guilt. We do not keep tapes or transcripts of our hearings, and in contested cases a lengthy summary is good for the record. In this case, the student, on having had an examination in physics returned to him, reworked some of his answers and some of the red markings of the graders to make it appear that his score had been totaled incorrectly, and then returned it to his professor for regrading.
...Our recommendations are three:
(A) The examination should be scored zero, and this information should be given to Professor P...
(B) Mr. A's behavior in this matter has been egregiously false. His initial calculation as to just how the paper should be altered was quite artful: the change of 1 to 16 was accomplished in such a way that a re-totaling of the score might have given him an extra 15 points without investigation of the interior, since the error could have been attributed to a totally different score of 15 appearing next to an unrelated problem on the front page.
We think Mr. A should be punished for so calculated an attempt to gull his fellow-men, and recommend that he be directed to serve his neighbors for about five hours a week [for one semester] as a volunteer in some convenient hospital or nursing home, to remind him of the obligations of citizenship he is flouting.
(C) However, the Board on Academic Honesty is concerned about Mr. A's health and welfare. There might be something pathological in this case, and we think he should be directed to seek counsel immediately, first as to his academic situation, and then, if his academic counselor thinks wise, or if you do, to a psychological counselor...[Someone] should get to the bottom of A's academic troubles before he wastes his college years in futile pursuits.
I say this with the more conviction from having been telephoned by Mr. A's mother, who sounds extremely ambitious on his behalf, and who says he's an excellent student and honest person, and who is most distressed at what he has been telling her about the present matter.
A few comments on this case: In assessing a penalty the Board looks at the entire record of the student. We found that A was hopelessly over his head and unable to admit it. He lied to his mother, to his professor and to himself, and had been doing so for so long a time (I did not include all the details in my letter to Dean, let alone in the part excerpted above) that it all seemed like truth to him. Probably the best thing we could have done for him would have been to suspend him for a year, let him get a job and see what the world was like, and come to see that his troubles were of his own making. But suspension is considered punishment, not therapy, and it would not have been consonant with our punishments of other students to suspend him for an offense (falsifying a few marks on a single exam paper) that others commit without receiving that penalty. There was certainly a difference between A and the run-of-the-mill minor cheats that make up more than half our clientele. It is possible that college will end up teaching him nothing, but humanity dictates that we at least give it a try.
The Medical School of the University of Rochester has a teaching hospital across the street from the main campus, and it has a volunteer department equipped to use whatever unpaid labor good-hearted citizens wish to provide: food service, cleanup, nurse's aide, runner. It is easy for the Dean to command a student like A to go over there and sign up for a stated period, putting himself under the supervision of some member of the University staff who will report at the end of the assignment that he did serve successfully. I do not know what the results were in the case of Mr. A, except that the University Directory still lists him as a student in good standing (his punishment ended over a year ago), but I do know that one other student similarly sentenced did, at the end of his term of service, praise us for having been lenient as regards injuring his academic career, and still sufficiently severe to be memorable. I cannot think of a better outcome. Assuming it is true.
Deprivation of Privilege
The only other penalty we have tried to be systematic in applying, and one that should be institutionalized rather than applied ad hoc, is what teen-agers of the 1960s called "getting grounded." That is, deprived of some (or all) privileges for a period of time. In a bourgeois setting this usually means forbidding use of the family car, or of staying out past eleven p.m. on the next four weekends. For younger children it can be restriction of television time or an imposition of fixed hours for homework. In a friendly and intelligent household, as in Gilbert & Sullivan's courtroom, such mild punishments are generally related to the offense: abuse of the car is followed by non-use of the car, and so on. So should it be in college.
Colleges are unfortunately no longer in loco parentis to the degree they once were, so that compelling certain hours of homework or enforcing an 11 o'clock curfew are literally impossible. But some privileges are still available for denial, most notably in the domain of extracurricular activities governed by the college. Intercollegiate athletics, for example. Most colleges already have rules stating that athletes who do not keep up a certain academic standard are "ineligible"; I would add academic dishonesty to the sufficient reasons for this. Our Board has done this just once. Finding little else suitable, we discovered that the student before us was a member of the University swimming team, and in our verdict asked the Dean to announce that he could not participate in the team's intercollegiate meets for the following semester. That hurt.
How was this punishment related to the crime? A common defense, or at least explanation, students offer for having plagiarized a last-minute paper is pressure of time. This is of course no defense, but it is offered to persuade us at least that there was no premeditation, and it is usually truthful. But that was pressure of time on the night before the paper was due; was there pressure earlier? In the case of athletes the answer is very often yes, even in colleges which, like Rochester, are low-key and thoroughly amateur in their athletic programs.
Athletic coaches are usually very careful to check on their charges' academic programs, and very respectful of professors' demands on their time. Academic failure, after all, removes the athlete from that winning team; we can't afford that. Adding cheating convictions to the list of things that can remove the athlete from the team will give the coaches one more topic they will be anxious to teach and enforce, before it comes to the attention of an honesty court. This is not a trivial point. Coaches know their students, and are closer to them than most professors are. Nothing is better taught, more thoroughly taught, in college than football, with other sports not far behind and liberal arts a distant fourth or fifth. A properly designed schedule of punishments for academic dishonesty will enlist these particularly assiduous teachers (called "coaches") in our causes, both the cause of intellect and the cause of honesty.
Athletic participation is not the only privilege a college can revoke, though the others are less frequently enjoyed by the kind of student we find it necessary to punish for academic dishonesty. There are the student newspaper, the student radio station, the student government, dance ensemble, oratorio society, theater company; and any number of student clubs and organizations whose meeting-rooms, parties, film-series, speakers' bureaus and advertising posters are provided by or subsidized by the college or its Student Activities budget. And there are fraternity houses. Of all these (apart from athletics), only the last has figured in our decisions in recent years. Here, as the best example, is the verdict in one of these cases.
Dear Dean K:
The Board on Academic Honesty, consisting today of Professors Y, Z and myself, has interviewed E.T.A. concerning Professor P's complaint that he had submitted two plagiarized papers for History 904 this semester.
Mr. A came to us accompanied by a friend, one D. B., who is a fraternity brother and a fellow student in History 904. He admitted to us, as he had admitted to Professor P, that the papers were copied more or less wholesale from papers that had been used by a student in the same course a year earlier. This was how Professor P had recognized the plagiarism. The assignments for the previous year had asked questions somewhat different from what was asked this year, and Mr. A's papers were clearly responsive to the wrong year's questions.
Mr. A did not tell us the name of the person who had given him the papers he copied. He said he did not know the person's name, but had met him at a fraternity party at ßßß (Mr. A belongs to αßτ). Pressed on details of the transfer of papers, he told an unlikely story of how the person whose name he does not know got the papers to him, and did not want them back.
Asked the names of people at the party in question, he volunteered several names, including that of his roommate C. But while we could probably track that person down, given a little police work, this would tell us very little except perhaps that A is lying about the details. Old papers are in the files of all fraternities, or their owners, and there is no law against consulting them. Mr. A is overly punctilious in not naming his source: that source could not be convicted of academic dishonesty for having loaned or given his papers to A.
But the roommate, C, was convicted by the Board on Academic Honesty of a similar plagiarism a year ago. Also, I discovered after our hearing, C took History 904 a year ago (Professor P had sent us his rosters to aid in our discovery of the source). Altogether, there seems to be an unhealthy atmosphere of plagiarism from previous years' assignments at αßτ.
The Board on Academic Honesty recommends:
1) E for the course grade in HIS 904
2) That E.T.A. (who is now a sophomore) be forbidden to live in the αßτ house during the fall term, 19xx.
If there is some logistic difficulty about (2), the prohibition can be moved to the spring term, but the Board would prefer his moving out right away, to some other University housing as available, not to come back to αßτ until January.
The Dean's letter to Mr. A contained the following passage:
...[It] seems clear from your behavior in HIS 904 that you have not learned the distinction between proper use of public copies of old exams, term papers and lab reports, and plagiarism. I am deeply concerned about the culture that failed to teach you that distinction and may have actually condoned or encouraged your action. Accordingly, you may not live in the αßτ house in the fall term 19xx.
The friend (called B) that Mr. A brought to the hearing with him did not participate in any way, even though asked to speak if he wanted to. We often have character witnesses present, or friends who serve as spokesmen or counselors, perhaps reminding the principal of some helpful detail, and sometimes merely a friend to serve as comfort in what can be a severe trial, so the Board was not particularly curious about his presence. I included his name in my report to the Dean only for the sake of completeness. However, it was not long before we found that Mr. B had a reason of his own for being there. We received a letter from Professor P that B had also plagiarized a previous year's papers in the same way that A (his fraternity brother) had done. B was duly convicted and given the same punishment, despite his defense, carefully if unconvincingly prepared, that his papers really were responsive to the current year's questions in History 904.
When the first verdict, against A, was brought in, I heard informally from a University officer charged with student residences and their problems that the expulsion of A from the house for a term had rather shaken the brothers up. He wondered if this penalty, which was a novelty to him, were really justified. Since it was a novelty to me too, I wasn't too sure, for all that I had assured the Dean (in person, and not only in my verdict letter) that there was indeed an unhealthy cheating environment in at least part of the αßτ house. It was comforting to me to be so soon confirmed, by the case of Mr. B. It seems probable that C, the roommate of A, was the source of the papers, though C had been convicted of a rather different offense the previous year.
We are always surprised when a plagiarism is so carelessly carried out as to be prima facie fraudulent, as these History papers were. Brothers A and B had been given their assignments by Professor P in typescript: dated sheets with meticulously written-out theses to be chosen from for discussion in each paper to be turned in. These theses resembled the corresponding ones from the preceding year, but were not the same. Both A and B had apparently thrown away the assignment sheets, or perhaps had not been present on the day they were passed out, and they simply assumed the theses were identical with the ones given out the preceding year, for which answers were to be found in the fraternity files.
This word has two meanings in most colleges. "Academic" probation is the status a student enjoys when his grade-point average falls below a certain level, or when he has failed too many courses, or in some other way has compiled a grade record which, if not improved, will lead to his being dropped from the rolls for academic failure. "Disciplinary" probation (sometimes called "social" probation) is the status a student enjoys when he has committed some offense (academic dishonesty, theft, vandalism, riot, and so on) against his own academic community which, if repeated, will lead to his being dropped from the rolls for failure in citizenship. Both are warnings, and they seldom carry any punitive force beyond that.
From a criminological point of view, I believe it is a mistake to distinguish between the two forms of probation, and a mistake to maintain them always as simple warnings without other sanctions attached (though simple warning, with ceremony to be sure, could still be retained as the mildest penalty). It would be positively advantageous for many college purposes to enforce a single sanction as an automatic concomitant of "probation": ineligibility for all extra-curricular activities sponsored by or financed by the college. Thus any student who has offended against the college and placed on "probation", will have his name entered on a list of "ineligible" students, this list published each term and sent to the coach, director or faculty advisor of every campus activity contemplated by the regulation. The list will make no mention of the offense or academic deficiency that gave rise to its membership; its only purpose will be to render self-enforcing the prohibition each student on it has been apprised of by the agency that put him there.
The activities forbidden to ineligible students should be such things as membership in intercollegiate athletic teams, the staff of the student newspaper, yearbook, or radio station, participation in the amateur theater, chorus, or symphony, or in the student government or any of its agencies, or the debating team; nor should he be permitted to assume an official position (president, secretary,..) of a college-sponsored club, such as the Newman Club, the Black Students' Union, the Cineasts, the Gay Alliance and the Morose Persons' Liberation Front. And finally, students on probation should be, at least in places like the University of Rochester, where there are more fraternity members than rooms for them in the houses, required to move to other, less attractive housing during the period of probation.
Different colleges have different privileges to withhold; the list above is typical for colleges of my own experience. Whatever a given college has in the way of privileges to withhold, its list should be explicit, and it should be publicized, to serve as a fair warning to students who have not yet offended. In most colleges today, students do not know in advance what is in store for them if they fall below par academically, or (especially) if they are found to have plagiarized or cheated in a course. There is a vague apprehension that in such case they are in danger of "being thrown out", but that at first there may be some temporary warning --- all of which is usually true. The uniform probation-ineligible rule suggested here would render all this much more visible to the potential offender. A patrolman on the beat is, for the man in the street, a much better reminder of the advantages of obeying the law than a downtown library full of legal reports.